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Treachery Is a Special Kind of Evil

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"The first and fiercest punishment ought to fall first on the traitor, second on the enemy. If I had but one bullet and I were faced by both an enemy and a traitor, I would let the traitor have it."
Corneliu Zelea Codreanu, For My Legionaries

You can commit war crimes. You can be a Loan Shark. You can even kick puppies on vacation, but if you betray someone who trusts you, you are the lowest form of creature there is. If this attitude is described from the victim's point of view rather than as the expected attitude of neutral observers, it would be Et Tu, Brute?. No matter which side they turn against, though, expect their former allies to carry some Abandonment-Induced Animosity.

This doesn't necessarily mean that the traitor is actually evil. A turncoat by definition only has their own advancement in mind, but someone who is a Defector from Decadence does so by turning on the obviously immoral team they previously worked for. This can even head into downright Moral Myopia with situations like gangsters treating people who work with the authorities as the scum of the earth for exposing their own criminal activities. Indeed, different interpretations of what constitutes loyalty and betrayal (and especially if one should remain loyal to an evil organization) make this a contentious issue in real life, at least if someone considers evil organizations worthy to contend with. This is obviously an In-Universe reaction and doesn't cover the author's and the audience's attitude towards it.

Sometimes Zig-Zagged or averted in Spy Fiction for fairly obvious reasons. Traitors from the good guy's team are evil, but traitors from the bad guy's team are sometimes sympathetic, depending on their motivation. In that case, it’s not the treachery itself, but the choice of sides that matters. When the enemy turns one of your own, it is more like Et Tu, Brute? In war stories, it's why The Quisling and his fellow collaborators are even more despised than the actual occupiers.

The idea of Sacred Hospitality is big on this. It's perfectly fine to kill each other on the battlefield, but luring someone into your home with the promise of protection just so you can kill them is truly despicable. Someone who believes this may also hold the views embodied in My Master, Right or Wrong or My Country, Right or Wrong.

If even those who profit by the treachery treat the traitor this way, that is Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves. Unless they betray them for self-serving reasons, making them the treacherous ones. A villain who makes a point to defy this will insist that I Gave My Word. Contrast Finding Judas and Regretful Traitor, which are different ways traitors are portrayed sympathetically (at least to the audience). This is one of the reasons why people believe that Spies Are Despicable, as treachery is part of the job. See also The Oathbreaker for general cases of people breaking sworn promises, regardless of how they're treated for it, and Rash Promise, which is often a means of teaching this moral.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Fairy Tail: Being a series that runs on The Power of Friendship, nothing quite establishes a villain's vileness like when they prove fully willing to betray their comrades for incredibly petty reasons. Best exemplified in the Nirvana Arc when Brain shoots Cobra, a loyal minion who was on the verge of killing Natsu despite having been taken off-guard, for the crime of taking too damn long to finish off "trash" and merely coming to the verge of defeat rather than dominating as expected. This betrayal especially hits home when Cobra hears Brain's thoughts and realizes that he always viewed the rest of his loyal guild as disposable trash to be replaced at a good opportunity and then Brain laughs when he realizes he heard that. Natsu, who witnesses all of this, only views Cobra with pity as he collapses and calls out Brain on wasting his own allies and viewing them as puppets. When Cobra gets revenge on Brain seven years later, none of the rest of the guild cares since they learned Brain never cared about them, not even the most loyal of Brain's men and self-proclaimed son, Midnight.
  • In Fate/Apocrypha, Avicebron switches sides to the Red Faction, on the condition no harm is to come to his master. Chiron initially believes this is because of Undying Loyalty. However, Avicebron proves him wrong by using said master as the magical core of his colossal golem. An infuriated Chiron, incensed at the depths he's sunk to complete his dream, shoots an arrow straight into his forehead. This act is considered so horrible that Avicebron in his Fate/Grand Order incarnation considers it one of the worst things he has done.
  • Voltes V: Heinel can forgive disobeying his orders, failing to defeat Voltes V, embarassing him and insulting him. However, when Zuhl betrays him, Heinel has him Unpersoned.

  • Alexandre Cabanel's The Fallen Angel: Lucifer's betrayal of God is the painting's theme and something that has left the former devastated and in turmoil, unable to decide whether to be furious or sad about having lost the latter's favor and love. Moreover, the loyal angels in the background are very intent on worshipping and singing to God, as if wanting to compensate for Lucifer's actions.

    Comic Books 
  • Deathstroke once rewarded Cheshire for selling out her own team by shooting her in the gut and leaving her for dead while noting his utter disgust with her actions.
  • Harley Quinn: In the 2000 series, Harley, while hardly a good person, is still fairly sympathetic for most of it. The event portrayed as her Moral Event Horizon happens at the end of the final story arc. Basically, a little girl has a code to a vault inscribed on her retina that a bunch of bad guys want. Due to how the "inscription" works, after the code is scanned out of her retina, she needs eye surgery within a few hours or will go blind for life. While Harley starts out claiming the girl means nothing to her, she starts to actually care about her and promises not to let her go blind. At the end, she lets her go blind anyway and takes the money. Even Harley realizes what a heinous thing she has done, as she later meets the now-blind girl in the park and is very clearly Trying Not to Cry Tears of Remorse, and ultimately feels so guilty she returns to Arkham Asylum on purpose.
  • The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck: Scrooge meets a fair share of nasty villains who are out for his blood and steal his riches, but he considers Flintheart Glomgold the worst of the lot because the latter had betrayed him by stealing his belongings and leaving him for dead in the African wilderness after Scrooge went out of his way to save his life and befriended him.
  • Runaways: The group have a very clear policy on traitors: if you betray the team, Nico Minoru will tear your damn heart out. This policy stems from its founder betraying the team and nearly getting them all killed.

    Fan Works 
  • Cheating Death: Those That Lived: As far as most residents of the Districts are concerned, the only time it's considered justifiable for somebody to kill their own District partner in the Hunger Games is if it involves a Mercy Kill, or if they're your final opponent after everyone else has been dealt with. This has led to some of the Victors being deeply despised, such as the Dirty Coward Logger.
  • Fairies of the Shattered Moon: Hazel espouses this belief, stating that betrayal is the greatest of sins that should be a last resort meant to save innocent lives. Adam betraying Sienna Khan for something as mercurial as power in the middle of negotiations, according to himself, is the final proof needed that he is unworthy to stand amongst Salem's forces as even a candidate for the Gates despite his power. Salem agrees when she hears of the fallout and even approves of Hazel's choice to make Sienna the new Gate candidate.
  • SAPR: Sunset is charged with treason when she admits to destroying the controls of the train, which lead to The Breach.
  • Truth and Consequences: After learning Hawkmoth's Secret Identity, Ladybug ends up making a deal with Gabriel in hopes of sparing Adrien from being judged for his father's crimes. Chat Noir is deeply upset when he finds out, unaware that he's the very person she's trying to protect... making their resulting conflict all the more ironic.

    Films — Animation 
  • Frozen II: Elsa enters a magical domain that represents the memories of hundreds of people. Responding her specifically, it shows moments of her own life and happenings from the first movie in the form of ice sculptures, including the villains. She's amused and happily dances along when seeing the dancing statue of the first villain, a magic-hating bigot who tries to kill her, but when she sees the image of Prince Hans seducing her sister, so he could one day kill Elsa and use Anna to ascend the throne, and directly left Anna to die, Elsa's smile instantly drops and she contemptuously destroys the effigy backhandedly.
  • Don Bluth's Titan A.E. has the Plot Twist that The Hero's mentor, Captain Korso, sold him out to the Drej, convinced that humanity is "circling the drain." While Cale tries to appeal to any last shred of decency in Korso's heart, The Dragon informs them both that the Drej are rewarding him to eliminate both Cale and Korso, leaving zero surviving humans capable of activating the Titan. The Starscream gets his head unscrewed for his effort.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Absolute Power (1997): Richmond's affair with a married woman and his subsequent murder of her would have been bad enough by itself, but she was also the wife of Walter Sullivan, a life-long mentor of his who played a key role in getting him into the Presidency. When Luther eventually reveals the truth about Richmond's crime to Sullivan, he is horrified by the level of betrayal he didn't think Richmond capable of and personally visits him in the White House that same night to exact revenge.
  • Doctor Ben Sobel from Analyze That, loses his composure after seeing so many actual crimes and backstabbing during two movies.
    Ben: I can't take it anymore! That's what I hate about you fucking sociopaths! You just keep changing the rules to suit yourselves. Well, not this time, you anti-social asshole. You fucked with the wrong shrink!
  • A major theme in A Few Good Men where different moral codes and conceptions of treachery clash with each other.
    • Colonel Jessup ordered the Code Red on the victim, Willy Santiago, because he tried to exchange incriminating information against a transfer, but then automatically sacrifices those who loyally apply that order.
    • Lieutenant Kendrick candidly declares in court that the victim died because he has no honor and that Dawson once committed a crime by giving food to a punished man.
    • Lieutenant-Colonel Markinson commits suicide because he can't bear his guilt and refuses to testify against his superior.
    • After Judge Randolph orders Downey and Dawson to be dishonorably discharged from the Marine Corps, the latter concludes they indeed betrayed the victim and the principles they were supposed to defend as Marines.
  • The General's Daughter: The film combines this trope with Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil. A female officer, the eponymous General's daughter, is revealed to have endured a horrific gang rape from male soldiers while she was enrolled at West Point. The rape was already traumatizing, but she might have recovered from it until her father betrayed her by covering up the event to get a promotion for himself broke her psyche completely. The investigator (played by John Travolta) ends up concluding that it was her father who really killed her and promises that he'll prosecute both him and the rapists for their crimes.
    Brenner: Someone once asked me what's worse than rape. Now I know the answer. Betrayal.
  • The traitors are purged in the climax of each movie of The Godfather Trilogy.
  • During the hospital raid in Hard Boiled, Mad Dog told Alan there are two people he hates the most; the cops, and creeps who betray their bosses. This was after he found out that Alan was an undercover cop, filling both criteria. Unfortunately, Johnny Wong, Mad Dog's own boss, proves to be a monster who Mad Dog has to betray himself in order to stop him from massacring innocent people, leading to Mad Dog's own death.
  • This is a central theme in I Shot Jesse James. Bob is cursed and spat upon by nearly everyone for shooting his longtime companion Jesse James in the back, even though James was a thief and murderer. It doesn’t help that people still aren’t quite willing to let go of their romanticized image of James as a Robin Hood-style rebel.

  • In the Arcia Chronicles, treachery is treated as one of the worst sins: it is a treachery that sets in motion events that culminate in The End of the World as We Know It, and the resident Horsemen of the Apocalypse are reincarnations of four kings who betrayed their loyal subjects and friends during their lifetimes.
  • Brother Cadfael: During the Forever War between Queen Maud and King Stephen, she sends her most trusted messenger with highly personal papers and jewelry to get help from her French relations, but the messenger is never seen again. Hugh Beringar looks for the murderer despite his fealty to Stephen and is horrified to realize that the messenger never died, but took on another identity as a hermit until he could escape, murdering a man who could have recognized him and getting killed in turn. He calls off the search in disgust and bears no grudge against Cadfael (who'd already figured it out) for letting the traitor's murderer get away.
  • The Divine Comedy: The Ninth Circle of Hell, Cocytus, is a vast frozen lake in which traitors are entombed. In the center of it all is Lucifer himself, trapped up to his waist, his wings beating in a futile attempt to free himself, but the winds freezing the water, and his three heads are chewing on Brutus and Cassius (who betrayed Julius Caesar), and Judas Iscariot (who betrayed Jesus). Cocytus is the lowest circle of hell (the highest contains virtuous pagans, good people who simply weren't baptized), thus according to Dante, there is no sin worse than betrayal.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Rereading the third book after the seventh makes Snape's hatred of Sirius much clearer: In addition to his grudge against him from his schoolkid bullying, he, like everyone else, thought Sirius had betrayed the Potters to Voldemort, and thus was partly responsible for Lily's death.
    • Taken slightly too far in the fourth book, where Ron considers Hermione dating Viktor Krum (the Durmstrang champion) as aiding the enemy to cover his jealousy (causing a Broken Pedestal moment, as he'd been a big fan of Krum's up to then). Hermione doesn't see what the big deal is, but then she also doesn't get why Quidditch is seen as a good thing when all it does is cause tension and resentment between Houses (she's not wrong, but as the viewpoint character is a Quidditch player...).
    • Peter Pettigrew is on the receiving end from both sides: When Sirius realizes Pettigrew survived his betrayal of the Potters, he becomes obsessed with hunting him down and avenging them, nearly succeeding if it weren't for Harry interceding. Pettigrew sacrifices his living hand to bring Voldemort back and is rewarded with a magical silver hand. In the seventh book, Pettigrew has a moment's hesitation (due to Harry saving his life four years prior) when carrying out Voldemort's orders, which is enough for the hand to strangle him.
    • The fake Mad-Eye Moody claims he can't abide traitors, which is why he looks down on former Death Eaters like Karkaroff and Lucius Malfoy. He's even telling the truth: they're Death Eaters who escaped imprisonment by claiming they were Double Agents or mind-controlled, while Barty Crouch Jr. went to Azkaban along with other loyalists before escaping to serve Voldemort in disguise.
    • In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the curse Hermione gave to anyone ratting on Dumbledore's Army was a permanent marking on the face.
  • In Reflections of Eterna (by the same author as Arcia Chronicles), betrayal often has massive supernatural consequences, such as the utter obliteration of the Nador Duchy by freak earthquakes after Richard Oakdell (the Duke of Nador) betrays his suzerain (and implied-to-be the rightful king) Roque Alva at a Kangaroo Court.
  • This viewpoint is common in Westeros, the main setting of A Song of Ice and Fire.
    • Among many nasty feudal overlords, the houses Frey and Bolton stand out as the least likeable, because they are traitorous. The mercenary captain Vargo Hoat lost his chance of a political career in Westeros because of Culture Clash: as a native of Essos, he thought switching sides is okay for him. It wasn't, and his former allies the Lannisters were particularly intolerant to this.
    • One particular form of treachery is especially reviled in Westeros, namely violating Sacred Hospitality. The aforementioned House Frey became hated by all of Westeros because of that transgression (the victim was not just anyone, but their king, making it also high treason for a double whammy).
    • Jaime Lannister, a knight of the Kingsguard, became famous for slaying King Aerys the Mad. From our perspective, that was a noble deed, especially considering the fact that the king planned to burn his capital down with all its citizens. However, as a member of the Kingsguard, Jaime swore to serve and protect his king, and, by killing him and saving countless lives, he committed a traitorous act. This made Jaime infamous and gave him the ignoble moniker of "The Kingslayer", even among former enemies of King Aerys.
    • In the legend of the Rat Cook, a cook of the Night’s Watch killed the king’s son and served him to the king as dinner. He was then punished by the gods by being turned into a rat. However, he was not punished for murder or cannibalism, but for betraying his guest and breaking the Sacred Hospitality.
  • The Sword Of Saint Ferdinand: Benalbamar, King of Granada, may not like Castilians, but he is utterly repulsed by his mole Pedro de Guzmán, since the man is betraying his country, his king and his religion for a handful of golden coins. Benalbamar hates spies and traitors, but he believes them to be necessary in time of war (as long as he has to deal with them as little as possible).

    Live-Action TV 
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Even when there are wheels within wheels rolling and he holds many secrets (and understands other people have them), if there is soemthing that will drive Phil Coulson up the wall immediately, is even thinking of stabbing the team in the back.
  • In Angel, Wesley is manipulated into kidnapping Angel's son, Connor, believing Angel was going to eat Connor. This act of betrayal causes a big schism between the two and other members of the team. Not even having Wesley being in the hospital with his throat slit stopped Angel in attacking him. In "The Price," Gunn and Cordelia even state outright that they don't care about Wesley's side of the story or why he stole Connor; he betrayed their trust, and that's all there is to it.
    • Lilah offered Wesley a job at her demonic law firm by gifting him a centuries-old copy of Dante's Inferno, and reminding him that no matter how much of a good guy he thinks he is, he committed the ultimate sin.
  • Babylon 5: Michael Garibaldi finds himself on both sides of this. At the end of the first season, he's shot In the Back by his second, Jack. When it comes to light, he goes to confront him, demanding to know why, and promising to be the one to push the button when Jack's Thrown Out the Airlock. In the fourth season, Garibaldi, who's been programmed by Bester's telepaths, arranges for Sheridan to be apprehended by Clark loyalists. When she hears about it, Ivanova orders Garibaldi shot on sight if he ever shows his face again.
  • In Firefly, Mal references the harsh punishments for traitors while he's ready to execute Jayne for ratting the Tams out to the Feds in "Ariel":
    I hear tell they used to keelhaul traitors back in the day. Now I don't have a keel to haul you on...
  • In Lexx, Stanley Tweedle is known as the "Arch Traitor" (and hated enough by La Résistance that they're more willing to kill him than the Big Bad's guards) because...he got caught by some Space Pirates and gave away some security codes, after being tortured for them. Whenever it comes up, it's usually Played for Laughs.
  • The Man in the High Castle: In the Axis-dominated world, execution is already a disturbingly common punishment for dissidents, so traitors to the Nazi or Japanese causes are given an outright Cruel and Unusual Death. For instance, after a mole within the Kempeitai is exposed by Chief Inspector Kido, the traitor is bayonetted to death by a dozen soldiers charging on him in turns.
  • In Roots (1977), Chicken George trusts his masters to never hurt him and his family, so when Tom Moore threatens to kill them all after the Nat Turner rebellion, it wounds him deeply. Even worse, George finds out that he's actually Tom's son, and yet Tom still sells him away to England.
  • Stargate SG-1:
    • Jaffa who turn on their Goa'uld master are branded as "Shol'va" and are outcasts among Jaffa—especially if they were First Primes such as Teal'c. The whole Goa'uld power system requires the unto-death subservience of their Slave Race armies, so of course they would take special measures to discourage turncoats.
    • The goa'uld Ba'al betrays his master Anubis when he discovers that Anubis means to wipe out all life in the galaxy, Ba'al included, and begins to work with the Tau'ri to stop him. Anubis finds out but decides that having Ba'al be witness to the coming end would be more fitting than straight execution.
      Anubis: Worse than cowardice. Worse than defeat. You have betrayed me. Did you not think I would know what you had done? How can you still underestimate my power?
  • In Star Trek, the three pillars of Klingon philosophy are duty, honor, and loyalty. Officially, the Klingons play this trope straight.
    • Worf does, but he's a particular case. Firstly, his parents died in a treacherous attack by the Romulans who had Klingon accomplices. Secondly, since he was adopted by human parents, he developed an idealized conception of the Klingon way of life.
    • This aspect wasn't yet established during the original series, but the trope is still Played Straight by Kang. He has always scrupulously respected the Organian treaty, so he's pretty angry when his ship's disabled by what seems to be an unjustified attack from the Enterprise.
    • Overall, a lot of treacherous Klingons appear onscreen. Sometimes, their strategy is accusing the adversary of treachery.
    • In Klingon society, losing honor is officially worse than being killed and traitors are usually stripped of their honor.
    • The episode "The Drumhead" starts with a Klingon who involved in espionage for the Romulans, but there's also the fight between Admiral Satie, who believes the end justifies the means to find imaginary traitors, and Picard, who points out that her methods betray the principles of Federation justice.
  • The Wire: In season 4, Randy Wagstaff, an eighth-grade student in the Baltimore public school system, talks to the police after witnessing a murder perpetrated by the Stanfield drug gang. After word gets out, he is immediately targeted by his peers as a snitch, culminating in his house being firebombed and his foster mother permanently disfigured. Randy eventually has to go back to the badly-funded group home he already stayed in for years.

    Myths & Religion 

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Ironsworn, iron vows are the most sacred of promises in the Ironlands. If one forsakes a vow, such as betraying the person they vowed to, it’s considered the "worst sort of failure." And if you die without fulfilling a vow? It can give unlife to a metal construct called an Iron Revenant, which cannot be stopped until it completes your unfinished business.
  • In Paranoia, all "commie mutant traitors" are to be immediately executed.
  • Princess: The Hopeful: The Princesses of the Court of Storms despise the Court of Tears for abandoning them to the Darkness during Downfall, to the point where fighting Tears is considered equivalent to fighting the Darkness itself by the rules of Storms magic (A Princess of Storms receives the same bonuses to attacking followers of Tears as she would receive if she were attacking a creature of the Darkness, but she also suffers the same sanctions if she shows mercy to a follower of Tears or retreats from battle with one).
  • Count Strahd von Zarovich's infamous Act of Ultimate Darkness from Ravenloft was the betrayal and murder of his brother Sergei on his wedding day so that he could have Tatyana, the woman both men loved, for himself.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • Averted with Tzeentch, god of sorcerers, schemers and backstabbers, and his followers, for who betrayal at the worst possible time means everything is going Just as Planned.
    • Khorne is the god of battle, rage and blood, and his followers don't consider it treason when they attack their own side (since blood spilled in battle strengthens Khorne). However, one of Khorne's greatest demons attacked him once (due to Tzeentch's manipulations), Khorne ripped his wings off and left him to slaughter for eternity without hope of being taken back.
    • Every Imperial unit gets the Hatred special rule when fighting against gue'vasa (human auxiliairies serving in the Tau army). Willingly serving a xenos species is one of the highest forms of treason, never mind that some of them are descended from human worlds abandoned by the Imperium.
    • Even Orks get in on this one, at least when the person betrayed happens to be the Worthy Opponent of their Prophet. Long story short, a soldier attempts to sell out Sebastian Yarrick to Ghazghkull Mag Uruk Thraka who does not take kindly to this at all and promptly throws said soldier to his personal Mad Doc for A Fate Worse Than Death.

  • BIONICLE: The Dark Hunters are mercenaries willing to intimidate, steal, murder and mutilate all the live long day, but even they looked down on Nidhiki for turning on his fellow Toa, and had Roodaka forcibly mutate him to make sure he didn't decide to jump ship from them as well (a wise decision, since he was in fact planning to do just that as she hit him).

    Video Games 
  • Assassin's Creed III: When Benjamin Church, a member of the Colonial Templars, defects to the British Empire, his former boss, Haytham Kenway, was pissed, to say the least. This results in him forming an uneasy alliance with his son Connor, an Assassin, to try and bring him to justice.
  • Batman: Arkham City: Talia al Ghul is angry at Bruce and said he and her father deserve each other. Two minutes ago, she was the hostage of her own father. On the other hand, Bruce manipulated her because he needed Ra's al Ghul's blood to save a lot of lives. Of course, the al Ghul family doesn't have the same moral code as Batman.
  • Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun: After Anton Slavik is rescued by the other members of the Black Hand from his would-be execution by General Hassan (who is secretly on GDI's payroll), he returns to the bridge of his command ship and confronts the guy who sold him out. The traitor can barely get out a single line because Slavik shoots him on the spot. He's proud to engage in war crimes for the cause, but Slavik despises disloyalty with a fiery passion. He later publicly executes Hassan himself.
  • In Crusader Kings II and III, traitors can be freely imprisoned by their liege lord and can be stripped of all their titles and then be banished, stripping them of their gold too, without upsetting any of your other vassals. To compare, murderers, rapists, and homosexuals can only be imprisoned, with any other action against them leading to your vassals becoming majorly pissed. To be considered a traitor, a vassal must openly go to war with his liege lord and thus break his feudal oath. This made civil wars extremely gamey, as players could just annoy vassals whose titles they desired until they revolt and then just steamroll them (although it becomes problematic if they convince your other vassals to revolt too). A patch then downplayed the traitor penalty, but it still is much harsher than any other punishment.
  • Doom Eternal: The Night Sentinel, Valen the Betrayer, in the past betrayed his kin and led the forces of Hell to their homeworld of Argent D'Nur, in exchange for the resurrection of his son, which led to the planet's destruction and most of the Night Sentinels being wiped out. Even the demons considered his treason "wretched", and as punishment, brought his son back as the Icon of Sin (because Valen didn't specify how he wanted his son back).
    "For his payment, the Betrayer's son was returned to him in our form, and the Icon of Sin was brought upon the heathens. His vengeance was swift and merciless, for the wages of treachery are suffering."
  • Among goblins in Dwarf Fortress, treason is the sole act which their ethics consider as a wrong; all others, including murder, are "personal matters."
  • The Friends of Ringo Ishikawa: Ringo firmly believes that nothing is worse to deal with than somebody who's betrayed your trust, complaining about the events of the Anna Karenina Expy he reads for his Literature class.
  • In Grand Theft Auto V, Token Evil Teammate Trevor is a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds who's committed nearly every crime in the book, but at the top of the short list of things he will not abide is treachery. It's for this reason that he held a massive grudge against Michael for Faking the Dead without telling him, and temporarily turns on him for letting his other Best Friend Brad die in his place and not tell him about that either.
  • Guns, Gore & Cannoli: Vinnie Cannoli may be an unrepentant mobster who casually kills anyone in his way, be they gangsters, police, or even US Army soldiers, but he's absolutely loyal to a fault. So when he gets betrayed by people he thought were his close friends or associates, he goes absolutely berserk and gets determined to kill them in a Roaring Rampage of Revenge. Just take a look at how Vinnie dealt with Joe Barista and Frankie the Fly, who both betrayed him for personal benefit and riches.
  • Heroes of Might and Magic Ashan: Orcs are Half Human Hybrids who were created by infusing demon blood into human criminals, and were first used as demon-slaying shock troops in human armies and later as a Slave Race. Even though they aren't terribly fond of humans and remember the multiple cruelties they've suffered, they are also proud of their demon-slaying purpose, and one of the worst things an orc can do is ally with demons.
  • Like a Dragon: Ishin!: The Shinsengumi as a whole share this mentality, and any attempt to betray or desert them is punishable by death. Ryoma finds out just how hard this "Iron Code" is enforced when he attempts to spare Akimoto, a deserter who had otherwise done nothing wrong, only for Todo to execute him on the spot.
  • Mass Effect: Andromeda: Ryder first goes to Kadara looking for an angara who sold out the Moshae to the kett, figuring he can lead them to where they need to go next. Unfortunately, said angara's actions have been found out by Kadara's mob boss, Sloane Kelly, and she's planning to give him the "head, spike, walls" treatment (not because she cares about the Moshae herself, but the angara living in the port do). Whether Ryder saves him or not is up to the player, but if they let him die, the Moshae is appalled, describing his actions as "inexcusable, not unforgivable".
  • In Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, the player can gas enemy soldiers, murder innocent animals, shoot your dog (though it'll always live,) and even develop a nuclear arsenal, but the evil the game prevents you from doing is shooting your own teammates. In a mission that forces you to Mercy Kill those infected with a parasite, with plenty of them begging you to, the only character that tries to call you out on it is clearly the one who allowed this to happen, which is why everyone else ignores him.
  • Sengoku Basara: Mitsunari Ishida's is really serious about betrayal. This is why he is intent on killing Ieyasu (for "betraying" and killing Hideyoshi) and why he considers anyone that defects from his army the lowest of scum.
  • Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time: Penelope sells out the Cooper Gang to Le Paradox, and has plans on doing the same to him to gain control of his criminal empire, all out of greed. Both sides disown her, with Le Paradox leaving her to die in 1301, and a vengeful Cooper Gang beating her to an inch of her life for treason and exploiting Bentley's feelings before they, too, leave her behind to die. She survives, but winds up a disgraced fugitive who's Hated by All.
  • Star Fox: Pigma Dengar got his position in Andross' army on the basis of his betrayal of his partners James McCloud and Peppy Hare, resulting in the death of the former and the narrow escape of the latter. Even the other members of the Star Wolf team are disgusted by him.
  • In TIE Fighter, you serve under the Galactic Empire fighting the Rebel Alliance. Later in the game, the Alliance takes a backseat as you have to deal with two treacherous officers that need to face retribution, Admiral Harkov (defecting to the Rebels) and then Grand Admiral Zaarin (staging a coup against the Emperor).

    Visual Novels 
  • In the final case of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Justice For All, Phoenix runs afoul of Shelly de Killer, a master assassin who will murder anyone for the right price. Despite an almost complete lack of morals and scruples, de Killer does have one rule: he expects absolute trust from his clients. When Phoenix and Franziska von Karma reveal that de Killer's latest client broke that trust by secretly videotaping him performing the murder, the assassin immediately confesses to what happened and announces that said client is now his only target—and he will find them.
  • In Shinrai: Broken Beyond Despair, out of everything the killer(Momoko Mori, the supposed first victim) did, killing Hiro Shiratake and possibly Kotoba Gaikoku doesn't get as much of a reaction out of the survivors as the killer manipulating her victims into taking part in what they thought was a prank, and planning for Kamen Eiga, her best friend and the third accomplice, to take the fall for her crimes.

    Web Animation 
  • RWBY: Despite Raven running away from the fight against Salem, her brother Qrow still had some degree of faith in her and believed she would never betray them. It isn't until Raven sets Qrow and Team RWBY up to save her own skin that Qrow finally reaches his limit, telling Raven in no uncertain terms that she's crossed the line and disowning her.

    Web Comics 
  • In the first arc of Angel Moxie Vashi, underling of the Big Bad Lord Yzin offers Tristan Stallings the country of France - once their plans of world conquest come to fruition - if Tristan helps undo the spell binding Vashi to another plane. Tristan follows Vashi's instructions to the letter, until Vashi reveals she never had any intention of giving Tristan anything and turns on her - so Tristan punches her across the world. After turns to the good side and unlocks her own Magical Girl Warrior powers she holds this grudge against Vashi and makes sure she's the one who takes her down in the end, all whilst Vashi is still goading her about France.

    Web Original 
  • In the second part of The Salvation War, Michael notes how humankind hates Yahwe's forces much more than demons who tortured them. Because demons never pretended to be anything else than what they are, and angels claimed to be guardians and paragons of morality while sending all human souls to hell.
  • Sgt Ducky: Ducky's main virtue is loyalty, and he shows a special kind of anger and hatred towards two people in his life for significant acts of betrayal. One of his commandments in the bro code is to never betray your friends to their girlfriends and never date their ex or current girlfriend.
    • His ex betrayed him by having affairs with multiple men even after Ducky took her to an expensive restaurant, to this day, the mere mention of her name is enough to inspire rage in Ducky as he had to rename her in one of his videos.
    • Ducky has some resentment towards Tony for betraying the boys at the same time by making out with Emma at a house party while they were trying to help their new friend, Dan. Future videos would also have Tony's girlfriend finding out about the affair or Tony being humiliated for it.

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • High treason (deceiving a legal government to its enemies) is usually considered a capital crime in legislatures that bear capital punishments. The other crimes usually are murder and piracy.
  • Real Life Quote: MI6 officer Nicholas Elliott confronting his former friend Kim Philby:
    You took me in for years. Now I'll get the truth out of you even if I have to drag it out. You had to choose between Marxism and your family, and you chose Marxism. I once looked up to you, Kim. My God, how I despise you now. I hope you've enough decency to understand why.
  • The Stop Snitchin' campaign was based on the idea that betraying your friends and comrades is worse than breaking the law.
  • The international relations between France and the United States became colder in the 2000s because the French government vehemently opposed to a new war in Iraq (especially one under phony pretenses), which the Bush administration spun as betrayal.
  • Being a delator (an accuser or informer) can be a fatal choice.
  • Some jurisdictions abolished death penalty only for ordinary crimes (i.e. murder, rape, kidnapping), meaning other crimes, usually military offenses and treason, are still punnishable by death
    • The last execution in Britain happened in 1964. However, the United Kingdom totally abolished the Death Penalty in 1998. Treason was one of the last few offense punishable by death. It was already no more possible to be sentenced to death for murder since 1965 in England, Wales, and Scotland and 1973 in Northern Ireland, but it was still possible for espionage until 1981.
    • Vermont has no executed murderers since 1954 and abolished it in 1972, leaving only a maximum of life in prison for murder. However, they still have a mandatory death penalty for treason that no one took off the books. Another state which maintained death penalty for treason was Michigan, who abolished it for murder on 1846 and for treason only on 1963.
    • The last European Union jurisdiction to have abolished death penalty was Latvia on 2012; they had it for wartime treason.
    • As of 2022, Peru and Guatemala maintain death penalty for treason. Brazil is peculiar in that the same Constitutional clause allowing death penalty for wartime treason also bans life imprisonment.
  • In the US Constitution, there is only one crime actually defined. That is the crime of treason. The crime, once proven, is also one of two specifically described crimes that Congress can use to impeach, and then try, and finally remove a person from their position in the Federal Governmentnote . The Constitution also limits the reach of the punishment to not directly include any familial relations of the traitor if they were not also guilty of treason. Tellingly, it's the only crime besides murder than can get one the death penalty in the US.
    Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court.

    The Congress shall have power to declare the punishment of treason, but no attainder of treason shall work corruption of blood, or forfeiture except during the life of the person attainted.
  • In feudalism, disloyal vassals could be stripped from their fiefs without penalty.
  • In some jurisdictions, being a traitor was so dishonorable even their descendants were said to have a tainted blood and couldn't inherit from him.
  • During World War II, the government-in-exile of the occupied Norway expanded the use of the death penalty so that it would be easier to sentence people like Vidkun Quisling to death for treason. Keep in mind that pre-World War II, the last execution in Norway was in 1876. A quote by the prosecutor in the Court of Appeal case against Quisling:
    Landsforræderi ansees med rette for den avskyeligste av alle forbrytelser fordi den kan bli så vidtrekkende og skjebnesvanger i sine konsekvenser, og fordi den underkjenner og angriper den samfølelse og det samhold som er en nasjons høyeste lov.
    Treason is rightfully considered the most despicable of all crimes because it can be so far-reaching and fateful in its consequence and because it invalidates and attacks the solidarity and unity which are the highest law of a nation.
  • Finland executed 468 people during World War Two, all by firing squad. The vast majority (78% or 365 cases) were from espionage and high treason. Only one was a civilian case (a sextuple murder). The last Finn to be executed, Pvt. Mauno Laiho, a Communist activist, was sentenced for desertion, high treason, and espionage on 2nd September 1944. Next day three Soviet infiltrators were shot, those being the last people executed in Finland.
  • In older times, some of the most horrible execution methods, such as disembowelment, were reserved for high treason and similar crimes.